Last night Apple announced results that would set records in the world of business at any time and for any industry and yet the stock will tank on the trigger finger nervousness of Mac diehards from 1984, fueled by the PTSD they suffered from the marketshare slide that forced them to Windows and the simplistic notion that history always repeats itself.
To me, the most interesting number that came out of yesterday's earnings results was the massive shrinking of Mac shipments (4.2 million versus 5.2 a year ago) which, all other supply chain excuses notwithstanding, tells the tale of end of the PC more clearly than any IDC or Gartner figures about overall PC shipments or even lackluster Windows 8 early results. These can all be squinted away but if you are looking at the Eloi of technology as the leading edge, the Apple laptops, and specifically the Macbook Air line, is as good as one can get on the evolutionary branch that started more two decades ago with the Compaq luggable: it is small, more than powerful enough, can run Windows as well as OSX, and aggressively priced for the level of fit and finish it delivers. Apple has managed to sells millions of these guysâ€” always growing the shipments until just this last quarter. And as Tim Cook stated on the call, the obvious reason for its decline has got to be the ascendancy of the iPad (and its clones) to replace the jobs people were buying Macbooks to perform.
It's not quite as clear as this because of the fact that the input heavy jobs may still be getting done on a laptop, albeit a much older device whose replacement cycle will be driven (if at all) by total breakdown as opposed to shiny and fancy. But by in large it would seem we are there and that for the most part, Jobs was right in claiming that PCs would become trucksâ€” specialized vehicles for heavy loads.
I can see two big implications for startups building consumer products: the first may be that the non mobile experience should now start with the tablet as opposed to the PC. Whether this means two native apps or one really good HTML5 one remains to be seen but it most certainly will not be mouse-driven interaction (hovers, fine control of a visible pointer, tabbing, etc.) on a 24 inch screen.
The second implication should be the experimentation game we need to take on in order to improve input methods for this new tablet as default ecosystem. No matter how good fingers on glass get, I still talk to plenty of online shoppers who discover on the tablet and then email themselves the checkout process for their PCâ€” an absolute funnel killer to any e-commerce experience. The obvious answer here is OneClick and its brethren but there are loads of non e-commerce cases that need to be addressed even before we consider the possibility that content creation for most of the non-truck population is going to be about more than pokes, likes, and retweets (wishful thinking).
I can see better keyboard options closing this gap (get inspired by the only good thing about Surface vendors) but I suspect we'll also get plenty of software only alternatives. All part of the magic that comes from having a new and clearly constrained design center for apps.
It's not new news that tablets are taking over but after last night's results it feels pretty irrefutable.